THE PRESIDENT of Cookstown Chamber of Commerce has appealed to local people to oppose the introduction of car parking charges.
Brian Jordan said he believes the proposed changes to parking in Cookstown will drive shoppers away.
At a meeting which took place last night (Wednesday), the committee of the Chamber of Commerce agreed to release a petition that will go against the proposed charges which were included in the Department of Regional Development (DRD) draft budget.
The petition is in response to last week’s meeting with the DRD minister, where they discussed the parking charges and the footpath crisis during the heavy snow fall in December past.
Mr Jordan said: “There was over 30 representatives that were at last week’s meeting that dealt with two main issues of car parking charges and the appalling state of the footpaths around Christmas time.
“All the members from the Chamber of Commerce have total objection to the introduction of car parking charges. It’s the last thing Cookstown needs in this type of environment. We bitterly oppose it.
“We discussed it at a meeting this week where we all showed our opposition to these charges.
“The Chamber of Commerce Committee proposed that all members and members of businesses would support a petition which will go against the introduction of car parking charges. We want an initiative that will bring people into Cookstown, not drive them away.
“The Minister of Regional Development has promised a consultation but we are not going to wait for it, we are going to show our opposition right away.
“We want to get the public behind us and support this opposition. We are appealing to the general public and want to advise them that the best means to do this is by signing the petitions which they will find in shops soon.
“This is how we will make our voices known, that we will not tolerate it. We don’t any other initiatives from Central Government that will drive shoppers out of town, which this will do.
“Businesses in the town are already competing with businesses outside Cookstown and now they will be severely damaged by these charges.”
Also opposing the car parking charges was Ulster Unionist Billy Armstrong. The UUP MLA, who is on the DRD committee, said: “The Department wants to bring on-street parking charges to 28 town across Northern Ireland and change it from free to fee. The DRD said they will have three weeks consultation on it which will give people a chance to object to it.
“I will go against these changes because the businesses in the town centre are mainly family owned. It will have a detrimental effect on people.
“People will have the chance to oppose it and I would encourage everyone to do so.
“These parking charges will send people away from the town centre, which is not what we want.”